The Madwoman in This Poem

After Bronwen Wallace

The Madwoman in this poem
Lives on the twenty-second floor
Of a block of flats
Her husband and children gone
Each day she waits for a letter
That never comes
Her wrists carry a flurry of scars
Her arms are dotted with cigarette burns
Every day she contemplates jumping.

The Madwoman in this poem
Walks the streets
Reciting Shakespeare and Milton
She shelters in bus stops and doorways
Scrounges through rubbish bins
Drinks from discarded beer bottles
Begs for money to buy cigarettes
And a moment’s respite.

The Madwoman in this poem
Slumps into a ramshackle chair
Hiding herself
Her large torpid body founders
Her heavy breasts gush
A drug-induced lactation
Her body grows
With each anti-crazy pill
She reluctantly swallows.

The Madwoman in this poem
Transfixes in front of the TV and
Absorbs its many messages
Ally McBeal is her daughter
Eddie McGuire can read her mind
Ridge and Brooke are talking to her
Are going to come in a helicopter
Take her to Venice to meet Brad Pitt.

The Madwoman in this poem
Lives in a holy grotto
Awaiting the Pilgrims
She carries the burden of Eve
Smells God in the toilet
Sees the Virgin above the lintel
Has given birth to the New Messiah
Carries the secret of the Holy Grail in her heart
Was raped by the Devil
Sees maggots wriggling in her Stigmata.

The Madwoman in this poem
Is sure Beethoven stole the
Nine symphonies from her
Cannot walk on the cracks of the pavement
Can feel spiders eating her brain
Fears her head is about to explode
Is going to the firing squad next morning
Is a character in a Bruegel painting
Is an oracle of the dead.

The Madwoman in this poem
Is Everywoman
Is any woman
Is a mother, daughter
Sister, lover, friend—
The Madwoman in this poem —
Is me.

© Sandy Jeffs 2005

In Sandy Jeffs and Susan Pepper, “Healing Words: A Meditation on Poetry and Recovery from Mental Illness,” The Arts in Psychotherapy.

Sandy Jeffs is an Australian poet and community educator. Her memoir Flying with Paper Wings: Reflections on Living with Madness, published by Vulgar Press, was SANE book of the Year in 2010. You can read more of her poems and essays on this site here.

1 Comment

World Mental Health Day | J V Birch · October 10, 2015 at 1:10 am

[…] work with a focus on mental health and the challenges it can pose (here you can read Sandy’s The Madwoman in this Poem). Alas, I was not fortunate enough to win an award despite being shortlisted in both the short and […]

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: